YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Food & Drink

12 for $40: Good grains offer nutrition and bang for your buck

By From page A8 | April 16, 2014

When you’re trying to cook on a budget, it’s easy to fill up on starches — they’re inexpensive and satisfying, don’t take much work to cook and keep in the pantry. They are not, however, the best dietary choice. They’re also not quite the bargain they seem, since the nutritional value of refined carbohydrates (think Wonder Bread and instant mashed potatoes) is very low.

What is a good deal on a budget are whole grains — they’re often slightly cheaper than their refined brethren, and infinitely more nutritious. When you cook them with a little care and a big shot of extra flavor, whole grains are also far more delicious.

It’s a good idea when introducing whole grains to possibly unenthusiastic diners to choose new dishes to put them in — a minestrone soup with whole grain elbow macaroni is usually an easier sell than your child’s favorite mac ‘n’ cheese.

The other quick and easy substitution for better health is replacing potatoes with other vegetables. Depending on the recipe, sweet potatoes, cauliflower or carrots all work well. Not all potatoes are bad — a baked potato, skin on and dressed with chili instead of dairy, for example, is a fine meal. On the whole, however, potatoes tend to be served without the nutritious skin and with a substantial amount of fat added.

Note that while the recipes in this set all call for vegetables, you shouldn’t feel bound to use the vegetables listed — substitute with abandon based on what’s on sale, in your garden or in your pantry or freezer.
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Planning is everything in sticking to a food budget, and we aim to help you with six days’ worth of menus, which should feed two adults dinner six nights a week* for about $40. These menus assume you already have some cooking skills, and own a basic reference cookbook.

Below the menus are tips for cooking, or for cooking ahead. If you see “In the fridge for future meals,” then save those items from this meal for later in the week. That’s been included in the shopping list.
*(Everybody needs to go out, or share potluck with friends, or otherwise enjoy life once a week!)

Saturday
* Chickpea Curry
* Rice
In the fridge for future meals:
cooked rice
peas
cauliflower
tomatoes
Tip: Cook all the rice at once — save some for Tuesday.

Sunday
* Greens with sweet potatoes and nuts
* Bread & Butter
In the fridge for future meals:
bread
Tip: Your bread should list “whole wheat flour” as the first ingredient.

Monday
* Quick Minestrone
* garlic toast
In the fridge for future meals:
cheese
Tip: Mix a little parmesan cheese with a little butter, spread on bread and run under the broiler. Mmmm!

Tuesday
* Falafel
* Fried rice with vegetables
In the fridge for future meals:
green onions
Tip: Fry cauliflower florets in a little oil, then add ¼ cup soy sauce and cover to steam for a few minutes. Uncover, add leftover rice and 3 chopped green onions. Cook until nicely heated through.

Wednesday
* Barley Pilaf with asparagus and ham
Tip: Don’t care for ham? Smoked turkey or smoked tofu would both be delicious.

Thursday
* scrambled eggs
* toast
* grapefruit
Tip: Eggs are high in protein, inexpensive and quick to cook. Add herbs or a spoonful of grated parmesan cheese for extra flavor.
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Shopping and recipes
Our shopping and recipes are scaled for two adults. Increase or decrease as needed to allow for your household. We shopped this list at the Co-op on Friday, April 11. We chose organic wherever affordable (marked “OG” on our list), and picked what we’d use at home — the best value rather than the absolute cheapest. We also assumed you had a few things in the pantry, which were not included in the shopping total. Our total: $40.54

In the pantry:
vegetable oil
hot sauce
curry powder
cumin
salt
red pepper flakes
dried oregano
vinegar
honey or sugar
fresh garlic

Produce:
onions, 2
fresh ginger, 1 finger
cauliflower,1 head (~2 pounds) OG
sweet potato, 1 OG
greens, 1 bunch OG
green onions, 1 bunch OG
carrots, 1 OG
asparagus, 8 stalks OG
lemon, 1
grapefruit, 1 OG

Dairy and cheese:
butter, 1 stick
plain yogurt,1 cup OG
parmesan cheese, 3 ounces
eggs, 4

Grocery:
bread, 1 loaf
frozen peas, 1 bag OG
diced tomatoes, 1 28-ounce can
chickpeas, 1 can
white beans, 1 can
Bulk:
pearled barley, 1 cup (8 ounces)
rice, 12 ounces
pasta, 3 ounces
almonds, ½ cup (2 ounces)
vegetable broth powder
falafel mix, ¾ cup (4 ounces)
Meat:
ham, 4 ounces

The recipes:
Chickpea Curry
The ingredients:
1 12-ounce can chickpeas
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
½ an onion, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 small head cauliflower
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
5 ounces or so frozen peas
1 cup plain yogurt
salt to taste

Putting it together:
Drain and rinse chickpeas. Cook onions in a pan with a little oil 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat. Add ginger and spices and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cauliflower. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in peas and chickpeas. Turn off heat and stir in 1 cup yogurt. Serve over rice.

Greens with Sweet Potatoes and Almonds
The ingredients:
½ cup almonds
1 bunch greens
1 teaspoon oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
12 ounces sweet potato, peeled and cubed

Putting it together:
Wash greens and cut into strips. Toast almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant. Reserve. Fry onion in oil in same skillet until nicely browned. Add garlic, spices, vinegar and honey and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add greens, cover, and cook to your taste. Stir in nuts. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.

Minestrone soup
The ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ an onion, diced
1 clove garlic
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked beans
A good handful of pasta
1 carrot, diced
1 cup frozen peas

Putting it together:
Sauté onion in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add broth, beans and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add pasta to soup along with any vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned or leftover) desired. Cook until pasta is tender and vegetables are heated through, about 15 minutes.

Pan-fried Falafel
The ingredients:
¾ cup falafel mix
½ cup water
1/3 cup finely grated cheese
oil for frying

Putting it together:
Mix falafel well with water. Let stand 15 minutes. If it doesn’t hold together after standing, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until it does. Stir in grated cheese. Heat a large skillet and add oil to coat bottom. Drop small spoonfuls of falafel into pan, then flatten — the thinner the cake, the crisper. Cook over medium heat until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Turn and cook second side. Serve with lemon wedges.

Barley Pilaf with Asparagus and Ham
The ingredients:
1 cup uncooked pearled barley
2 cups broth
salt and pepper
8 stalks asparagus
3 green onions
3 ounces ham
cheese to taste (optional)

Putting it together:
Toast barley on a sheet tray in the oven until lightly browned and delicious smelling, 10-20 minutes depending on the oven temperature. Wash asparagus and cut into bite-sized pieces. Slice green onions thinly and cut ham into slivers.

Combine broth, salt and barley in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 25 minutes. Add asparagus, cover, and let cook another 10 minutes. Stir in ham and onions. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding pepper and parmesan cheese if desired.

— A new menu is available free of charge every Friday afternoon at the Davis Food Co-op, 620 G St. Back issues also are available. Email Julie Cross at [email protected]

Julie Cross

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